Solar Tribune

2016 Presidential Campaign: Solar Scorecard


Which Candidates are Strong on Solar?

As we enter the run-up to the 2016 presidential election, a plethora of Republican and Democratic hopefuls are powering up their campaign machines. Many are already taking up part-time residence in the “first in the nation” states of Iowa and New Hampshire, hoping to separate themselves from the pack.

In the wake of the Obama administration’s mixed bag of hits and misses on energy policy, some Republicans are looking to use the Solyndra debacle and supports for solar power in general as a sign of the failure of Democratic energy policy. Other Republicans have their own solar success stories to tell. On the Democratic side as well, the current group of front runners range from strong solar supporters to openly anti-solar.

Solar Tribune has compiled a list of the leading (as of yet undeclared) candidates as of the beginning of 2015, and assigned each a grade, based on their commitment to solar power. Admittedly, it is a somewhat subjective process, but the criteria is as follows:

A- Strong support in statements and actions
B- Support in statements, moderate action
C- Moderate support in statements
D- Little or no support
F- Anti-Solar in statement or action

This ranking does not reflect the candidates philosophy on markets vs. incentives, climate science, support for fossil fuels or any other criteria other than their actual statements regarding solar’s significance in the future of the nation’s energy mix, and their personal actions to help or hinder the growth of the industry.


Jeb Bush: C
Jeb2016Jeb Bush currently is currently generating a lot of heat in the Republican field, and is very popular with the big-money funders needed to mount a successful campaign.
Bush endorsed setting a national goal of 25% renewable energy by 2025, but as governor of Florida, he did not promote much in the way of solar policy. Florida does not have a renewable portfolio standard, property tax exemptions, or a statewide solar power rebate system.

Chris Christie: A
Christie2016Chris Christie is probably the most outspoken advocate for solar energy of any of the leading republican contenders. Gov. Christie stated that “The future for New Jersey is in green energy and already we’ve put in place policies to broaden our access to renewable sources of energy, cleaner natural gas generation and ending our reliance on coal generation.” Christie signed into law an acceleration of the renewable portfolio standard (RPS) for solar energy and a reduction of the solar alternate compliance payments.

Ted Cruz: F
TedCruzAlthough Senator Ted Cruz of Texas has not gone on record as being vehemently anti-solar, he has been remarkably silent on renewable energy issues in general. However, Cruz has long been active in the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). ALEC has provided model legislation for many conservative state legislators across the country, and is currently promoting rolling back net metering and charging solar energy producers for access to the grid.


Mike Huckabee: C
mikehuckabee16Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee has not offered a lot of specifics as far as renewable energy policy goes, other than voicing support in general for reducing dependence on foreign energy sources. His home state of Arkansas has average to above average solar policies.



Bobby Jindal: D
jindalLouisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has said: “Republicans seem instinctively to oppose cultivating…solar and wind power. Likewise, Democrats often stridently oppose… oil, coal, and nuclear power. Here’s an idea: how about we do it all? That’s not a Republican or Democrat solution. That’s an American solution.” Meanwhile, he has signed legislation to end solar tax credits.


Rand Paul: C
RandPaulSenator Rand Paul makes no bones about his beliefs that government should not be playing favorites in the market, so it is so surprise that he is not a fan of government-funded solar programs. In fact, he blames “government intervention” for much of the nations energy problems. Sen Paul has stated: “”I favor tax incentives for alternative energy, but I oppose subsidies, which has the effect of allowing the government to choose winners and losers.” If taken at his word, that means he opposes subsidies for fossil fuels as well, which give them an unfair advantage over emerging renewable technologies.

Rick Perry: D
RickPerry2014As governor of Texas, Rick Perry has done a lot to promote utility scale wind power development, but very little in the way of leadership on solar development. In 2005, he signed a bill requiring Texas to have 5,880 megawatts of renewables capacity by 2015. The state has already surpassed that requirement, primarily through large wind. The Texas Public Utilities Commission, appointed by Perry, has blocked significant implementation of net metering.


Marco Rubio: C
MarcoRubioFlorida Senator Marco Rubio has stated his support for a broad energy mix, including more biofuels, and more nuclear, solar and wind power. However, he has been skeptical about the role of renewable energy. “What I have a problem with is this idea we can windmill our way into the 21st Century,” he said.



Paul Ryan: F
paulryanWisconsin Senator Paul Ryan, Like Senator Ted Cruz, is heavily tied to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). In addition to supporting ALEC’s anti-solar agenda, Paul Ryan has tried to make an example of solar incentives as a poor use of federal funds. Despite his criticisms, several of the projects he has sited as failures have actually been successfully completed.





Joe Biden: B
bidenVice President Joe Biden has been an outspoken supporter of renewable energy around the globe. In fact, his brother, Frank Biden, is involved in developing solar projects at luxury resorts in Central America and the Middle East. Biden has had a primarily pro-renewables voting record in the senate.



Hillary Clinton: A
clinton-2016At the National Clean Energy Summit in Las Vegas, former New York Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the audience that the U.S. “cannot afford to cede leadership in this area,” addressing China’s growing position in the solar marketplace. “Our economic recovery, our efforts against climate change, our strategic position in the world all will improve if we can build a safe bridge to a clean energy economy.” Clinton had a strong pro-renewables voting record in the senate.

Bernie Sanders: A
Tberniesandershe Senator from Vermont has been a stalwart advocate of renewable energy, and solar in particular, for many years. In 2010, Bernie Sanders introduced a bill to encourage the implementation of 10 million rooftop solar projects in 10 years. Unfortunately, it didn’t go anywhere. An Independent and self-described “socialist”, Sanders plans to run for the Democratic Party nomination.


Elizabeth Warren: C
ElizabethWarrenMassachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren is still relatively new to the US Senate, and she has not taken a strong stand on solar issues as of yet. Senator Warren is known as a strong financial regulator in favor of bank reforms, and on her website she states: “Right now, renewable energy competes with old energies that get lots of special breaks from Washington. We know that we can generate power with alternative energy sources like wind, solar, and hydropower.”


Jim Webb: F
webbJim Webb is considered a moderate Democrat from the coal-producing state of Virginia. As Senator, he held a very conservative position on energy issues. Rather than solar and wind, Webb has stated that “I believe the way to go with coal is to get the technology to address the issues, rather than to put coal out of business. And I’m a strong believer, from the time that I was 18 years old, in the advantages of nuclear power.”

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